Recruits showing promise
Joe Hettler | Friday, November 19, 2004
Another November, another top recruiting class for the Notre Dame baseball program.
The Irish inked eight players Tuesday from across the country during the early-signing period. The class has four right-handed pitchers, a left-handed pitcher, a third baseman, a catcher and a utility player.
“I think it’s a really outstanding class. I’m really excited about this group,” Irish coach Paul Mainieri said.
Student Sports has ranked the class 21st in the nation. Notre Dame has consistently had top recruiting classes, including a No. 1 ranked group in 2002, as Mainieri and his assistants continue to build the Irish program into one of the elite in college baseball. The Irish have compiled 195 wins during the last four seasons, while Mainieri has a 399-160-1 record during nine seasons in South Bend, including a College World Series berth in 2002.
Mainieri said the Class of 2009 should help Notre Dame in several areas, starting with pitching.
He said four of the five pitchers are hard-throwers, all with fastballs clocked in the 90s, while the fifth, Jeremy Barnes is, as Mainieri said, “a very productive pitcher.”
“In my opinion, those five pitchers we’ve recruited have a chance to be as dominating a staff as we’ve recruited here, and we’ve recruited some pretty good staffs,” Mainieri said.
Mainieri said the lefthander, Sam Elam, “has as good an arm on a lefthander as you’re going to see.”
Elam is ranked as the 18th best player in the nation by Team One Baseball and posted 54 strikeouts in just 26 innings last season.
He also finished his junior season with a 2.20 ERA.
Righthander Brett Graffy was 6-1 with a 3.28 ERA for Joliet Catholic High School last season, helping his team to a state runner-up finish. He is the No. 2 prospect in Illinois.
Kyle Weiland was 6-2 with a 3.34 ERA as a junior and had an impressive summer ball season, finishing with an 8-1 record and 1.66 ERA.
David Phelps is the No. 1 player form Missouri and posted a 2.65 ERA, while striking out nearly 16 batters per nine innings.
Barnes, who played shortstop as well in high school rounds out the group as the most versatile pitcher.
While he doesn’t hit 90 on the radar gun, Barnes still managed to record a 1.36 ERA, thanks in large to part to a nasty slider.
The other three players give the Irish not only solid defensive skills, but also outstanding hitters.
Mainieri said bringing in players who could hit the ball well was critical for this year’s class.
“We don’t know what we’re going to lose this year,” Mainieri said. “A major core of our team is our junior class.
“When you have guys that are eligible for the draft and they’re good players, you have to assume you’re going to lose a number of them because of the nature of the way it works now.”
Notre Dame lost three underclassmen to the draft a season ago in pitchers Grant Johnson and Chris Niesel, and infielder Matt Macri.
Third baseman Eddy Mendiola and left-handed hitting catcher David Hum should help give the Notre Dame lineup more power.
Mendiola is the nation’s third-ranked prospect at third base and hit .406 with 27 RBI, eight doubles and 12 steals in 20 games as a junior.
Hum hit .476 and could be one of the top hitting catchers in the country. He also added six home runs to lead all players in the state of Arkansas.
“Both of them are bats,” Mainieri said. “That was the important thing.
“We wanted a couple of guys who could really swing the bat.”
Rounding out the eight recruits is utility player, Ryan Connolly. Connolly tallied a .439 average with four home runs and 20 runs scored a season ago.
Mainieri said assistant coaches David Grewe and Terry Rooney had a significant impact with helping to bring in such a talented class.
“I think all the credit really goes to my two assistants.
“They worked so hard all summer and really they didn’t leave a rock unturned,” Mainieri said.
Despite the difficulties of recruiting at Notre Dame, Mainieri is pleased with the eight players the Irish will bring in as freshman for the 2006 season.
“There’s a lot of challenges in recruiting for us and I think we really succeeded this year.
“I think we’re bringing in a great class.”
u The players hail from seven different states, with two coming from Texas.
u Mainieri said Notre Dame is unlikely to sign any other recruits for this class.